Thinking Digital organisers plan expansion, beginning with new Manchester conference

Thinking Digital move should help raise popular event's profile, making it easier to bring high calibre speakers to the North East

Organiser Herb Kim at the Thinking Digital conference at the Sage in Gateshead
Organiser Herb Kim at the Thinking Digital conference at the Sage in Gateshead

Following what has been hailed as the best Thinking Digital conference to date, organisers have announced they will be bringing the event to Manchester - and potentially much further afield.

Last week hundreds of businesses and technology enthusiasts turned out at Sage Gateshead to hear speakers from around the world discuss everything from animation to Artificial Intelligence.

Herb Kim, who runs the conference, said attracting such high calibre names had become an increasingly difficult task as the upturn in the tech economy meant many were now extremely pushed for time.

After considering a number of options, he has concluded that the key to its ongoing success lay in growing its reach and profile.

“We used to go to conferences such as TED in the US and I would personally recruit these folks,” he said.

“That was fine in the old days when we were running Thinking Digital as part of a larger enterprise. Now, though, every time I go over on an extended trip it’s a major deal and it’s an expensive way of doing it.

“I realised that an alternative would be to build up Thinking Digital and grow it further.

“We didn’t want to run before we could walk, but since I already run TEDx Manchester, I thought: why not take Thinking Digital to Manchester too?

“I was already working with a company called Don’t Panic Events and they were keen to do more with me anyway. The next step, then, will be to look at the possibility of going to London or another global capital.

“We could then start to look at the likes of America or East Asia.”

The Three Thinking Digital Conference at the Sage, in Gateshead
The Three Thinking Digital Conference at the Sage, in Gateshead

The first Thinking Digital Manchester conference will take place on November 2 and 3.

Around 16 to 20 speakers are expected to take part, among them being Rory Sutherland of the marketing communications agency Ogilvy & Mather who has previously spoken at TED in the US as well as at Thinking Digital in 2010.

Mr Kim said several people had already enquired if the move was the “first step” towards withdrawing the conference from the North East.

“That’s absolutely not the case,” he said. “Ironically, this is actually being done to help make it easier for us to continue doing Thinking Digital in the North East over the coming years or even decades.”

He added, however, that the 2016 conference would span one-and-a-half days, rather than two-and-a-half, as feedback had consistently shown some senior business figures found it hard to justify being away from the office for the longer period.

The new-look event would concentrate on workshops on the first half-day, with the second day focused on high quality speakers.

“The lowest price we’ve ever offered was in 2008 - £175 plus VAT - but we will offer the one-and-a-half day conference for £99 plus VAT,” Mr Kim said.

Organisers were also considering switching the conference venue from Hall 2 to Hall 1 at the Sage, allowing for a larger audience, but, at the moment, this was being considered as a longer-term plan.

Reflecting on the 2015 conference, Mr Kim added: “I genuinely think it was the best single Thinking Digital ever.

“One thing we’re know for is the great speakers and we had great speakers this year. But in terms of how we put them together and balanced them out, I think it was the best we’ve done to do date.”

For details on the Manchester conference, see tdcmcr.com.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer